The Bureau of Land Management is attempting to reconstruct a citizen’s group in Wyoming after it suspended the advisory council last year for review.
The group has weighed in on the agency’s policies from specific issues like sage grouse to broader concerns like land management plans in Wyoming since it formed in 2011. Its volunteer members are a cross section of Wyoming industry, local government and environmental representatives, each holding their seat for a period of three years.
Resource Advisory Councils were put on hold last May as part of an Interior-wide review ordered by Secretary Ryan Zinke. Nearly 200 committees nationwide were suspended pending review to ensure that such groups were working in line with President Donald Trump’s new vision as laid out in a number of mandates and executive orders, the Bureau of Land Management stated at the time.
The agency in Wyoming has been seeking nominations to fill vacant positions since November and put a call out last week to fill two more vacancies that will open in July. Nominations for new positions were allowed to continue during the review process, according to the state office.
Wyoming council members expressed frustration when the group was put on hold last year, fearing that it would disrupt their ability to stay current on major issues affecting public land in Wyoming. They were alerted in early May that an upcoming meeting in June would be cancelled and that the review of the advisory council would end in September at the earliest.
The council was cleared to return but is now missing four members, with two others facing an end of their three-year term this summer.
Of the 10-person council, three members’ terms expired during the review period and one member stepped down after taking a job at the Bureau of Land Management. Current vacancies include two seats for citizens in the energy industries, one for an individual in an environmental or archeological field and one from local government.
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The group is hoping to reach a full quorum by summer so that it can resume meetings. It last met in early 2017.
Christi Haswell is one of the members whose term will expire this summer and would like to serve again. Her business in Sheridan, SWCA, provides consultation for energy industries. Nearly a year of her three-year term was on hold for the agency review.
“I think people volunteer their time because they hope to be participating,” she said of the review delay. However, the groups were not involved in an ongoing project that was put on hold, she said.
“It’s more unfortunate than it is totally disruptive,” she said.
The Resource Advisory Council was formed to give voice to citizen opinions on federal land management for the 17 million surface acres, and 38 million subsurface acres of mineral estate managed by the BLM in Wyoming, according to the agency.
In a statement Friday, Bureau of Land Management state director Mary Jo Rugwell extolled the value of having the board’s on-the-ground perspective on agency decisions.
“The BLM Wyoming Resource Advisory Council is an important asset in our commitment to working with local communities to ensure healthy, working public lands through shared conservation stewardship,” she said.